Elements of Quality Online Education

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1 Elements of Quality Online Education Engaging Communities Edited by John Bourne and Janet C. Moore Volume 6 in the Sloan-C Series SLOAN C The Sloan Consortium A Consortium of Institutions and Organizations Committed to Quality Online Education

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3 Elements of Quality Online Education: Engaging Communities Edited by John Bourne & Janet C. Moore Volume 6 in the Sloan-C Series

4 This book contains information obtained from authentic and highly regarded sources. Reprinted material is quoted with permission, and sources are indicated. A wide variety of references are listed. Reasonable efforts have been made to publish reliable data and information, but the authors and the publisher cannot assume responsibility for the validity of all materials or for the consequences of their use. Neither this book nor any part maybe reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, microfilming, and recording, or by any information storage or retrieval system, without prior permission in writing from the publisher. The consent of Sloan-C and the Sloan Center for OnLine Education (SCOLE) does not extend to copying for general distribution, for promotion, for creating new works, or for resale. Specific permission must be obtained in writing from SCOLE for such copying. Direct all inquiries to SCOLE, at Olin Way, Needham, MA , or to Online at Cover design by Leighton Ige, Olin College. Copyright 2005 by Sloan-C All rights reserved. Published 2005 Printed in the United States of America International Standard Book Number

5 Elements of Quality Online Education: Engaging Communities, Volume 6 in the Sloan-C Series This is the sixth volume in the annual Sloan-C series of case studies on quality education online. In 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, and 2004, the Sloan Foundation selected expert contributors to report on work in progress and to collaborate on research of importance to asynchronous learning networks. Each volume publishes contributions in the form of documented, peer-reviewed scholarly studies of learning and cost effectiveness, access, and faculty and student satisfaction. Other titles available in this series: Elements of Quality Online Education: Into the Mainstream Volume 5 ISBN Elements of Quality Online Education: Practice and Direction Volume 4 ISBN Elements of Quality Online Education Volume 3 ISBN Online Education: Learning Effectiveness, Faculty Satisfaction, and Cost Effectiveness Volume 2 ISBN X Online Education: Learning Effectiveness and Faculty Satisfaction Volume 1 ISBN This book was made possible by a grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

6 Sloan-C has its administrative home at the Sloan Center for OnLine Education (SCOLE) at Olin and Babson Colleges. SCOLE has been established as a center that spans the two campuses of Olin College and Babson College. SCOLE s purpose is to support the activities of the Sloan Consortium, a consortium of higher-education providers sharing the common bonds of understanding, supporting and delivering education via asynchronous learning networks (ALNs). With the mission of providing learning to anyone anywhere, SCOLE seeks to provide new levels of learning capability to people seeking higher and continuing education. For more information about Sloan-C, visit For more information about Olin and Babson Colleges, visit and

7 Contents Elements of Quality Online Education: Engaging Communities Volume 6 in the Sloan-C Series Introduction Frank Mayadas, John Bourne, and Janet C. Moore... 7 I. How Can Online Pedagogy Improve On Face-To-Face Pedagogy? 1. A Constructivist Model for Thinking About Learning Online Karen Swan The Real-Time Case Method: The Internet Creates the Potential for New Pedagogy James Theroux and Clare Kilbane A Case Study in Blended Learning: Leveraging Technology in Entrepreneurship Education Barry Bisson, Edward Leach, Timothy Little, Robert Richards, Brian Veitch and Karin Zundel Engagement in Online Learning Communities Albert L. Ingram II. How Can Asynchronous Learning Networks Engage the Core of Higher Education? 1. Using Blended Learning to Drive Faculty Development (And Vice Versa) George Otte Higher Education, Blended Learning and the Generations: Knowledge is Power No More Charles Dziuban, Patsy Moskal and Joel Hartman Adding Clicks to Bricks: Increasing Access to Mainstream Higher Education Raymond E. Schroeder and Burks Oakley II III. How Can the Two Worlds of Academia and Industry Cooperate to Contribute to a Tenfold Increase in Online Learning in the Next Ten Years? 1. Instructional Technology Graduate Programs in Support of Corporate E-Learning Barbara B. Lockee and Michelle A. Reece Implementing Curricula Using A Variety of Learning Modalities at Liberty Mutual Group Richard Benner IV. What do We Need to Learn About the Business of Education? 1. Business Issues in Online Education Stephen Schiffman The Business of Online Education: Are We Cost Competitive? Rob Robinson Success Versus Value: What Do We Mean by the Business of Online Education? Doug Lynch Reinventing the University: The Business of Online Education Tana Bishop

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9 Introduction INTRODUCTION Frank Mayadas President John Bourne Executive Director Janet C. Moore Chief Learning Officer In September 2004, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation convened its sixth annual invitational summer research workshop with researchers and practitioners from forty colleges, universities and organizations. The 2004 workshop was designed to address challenges facing higher education with respect to the potential of asynchronous learning networks (ALN) for achieving the goal of increasing online enrollments tenfold in the next ten years. To produce this volume, Elements of Quality Online Education: Engaging Communities, Volume 6 in the Sloan-C quality series, representatives from these groups identified issues and shared solutions: The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation American Distance Education Consortium Babson College Brigham Young University The City University of New York Drexel University Empire State College Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering Hampton University Hunter College IBM Institute for Healthcare Improvement Kent State University Liberty Mutual Maricopa Community Colleges Massachusetts Institute of Technology New Jersey Institute of Technology Open University of Israel Pace University Pennsylvania State University Rochester Institute of Technology The Sloan Consortium Southern Regional Education Board The State University of New York Stevens Institute of Technology Thomson Learning UC Berkeley Extension Online University of Central Florida University of Illinois University of Illinois at Chicago University of Illinois at Springfield University of Maryland University College University of Massachusetts University of Massachusetts Lowell University of Nebraska Lincoln University of New Brunswick University of Pennsylvania The University of Texas System Telecampus University of Wisconsin Extension Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University Washington State University 7

10 Introduction In a knowledge society, people demand access to learning as never before. Online education has become the leading modality for distance education. Moreover, academic leadership expects online enrollment growth up to 25% per year; the majority regards online education as critical to long-term strategy; and most believe online education is already equal to or superior to face-to-face education [1]. Thus, the central challenge to the nation is how to engage communities to make education an ordinary part of everyday life [2]. To address this central challenge, members of the workshop responded to these related challenges: How can online pedagogy improve face-to-face pedagogy? How can asynchronous learning networks engage the core of higher education? How can the two worlds of academia and industry cooperate to contribute to a tenfold increase in online learning in the next ten years? What do we need to learn about the business of education? A. How can Online Pedagogy Improve on Face-to-face Pedagogy? Gary Miller of The Pennsylvania State University has pointed out the The pedagogy inherent in ALN inquiry-oriented, resource-based learning is a natural pedagogy for the world in which we live [3]. Because of ALN s freedom from time and place constraints, its opportunities for reflective thinking and its reach and connectivity, online education engages faculty and students in new interactions with content, with action, with each other, and with the world outside the classroom. In A Constructivist Model for Thinking About Learning Online, Karen Swan of Kent State University s Research Center for Educational Technology provides a primer of constructivist learning theory and its implications for designing online learning environments that are learner centered, knowledge centered, assessment centered, and community centered. Giving an example of this kind of learning environment, Jim Theroux and Clare Kilbane of the University of Massachusetts explain how four universities cooperatively engaged students in The Real-time Case Method, using ALN and the internet for studying and advising an actual company. In A Case Study in Blended Learning: Leveraging Technology in Entrepreneurship Education, Barry Bisson of the University of New Brunswick and colleagues describe the engagement of faculty and students at three universities in a resource rich course in entrepreneurship that used synchronous and asynchronous technologies in addition to face-to-face meetings at the campuses. In Engagement and Learning Communities, Albert Ingram of Kent State University defines engagement as the confluence of three important concepts: attention, activation of effective cognitive processes, and, usually, a social context of learning. This sense of engagement is fundamental for understanding and building community. B. How can Asynchronous Learning Networks Engage the Core of Higher Education? ALN is changing education as institutions and faculty engage with new technologies and the pedagogies they make possible. New combinations of delivery modes affect faculty and students, so that they can now engage in both face-to-face and online education as a matter of course. Reporting on a Sloan workshop at the University in Chicago in April, 2004, Mary Niemiec, Interim Associate Provost for External Education at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), and colleagues identified perspectives from institutions, faculty and students on the value of blending ALN and face-toface education. The 2004 workshop on blending continues its work of developing a framework for best practices in blended education via an online Sloan-C special interest group and plans for future 8

11 Introduction workshops and publications. In fact, reports George Otte of the City College of New York in Using Blended Learning to Drive Faculty Development, the virtues of blended learning heightened interaction, convenience, expanded enrollments, efficiencies of classroom space are engaging mainstream faculty in building community and knowledge about online instruction, a critical step to full integration. Chuck Dziuban and colleagues at the University of Central Florida report in Higher Education, Blended Learning and the Generations: Knowledge is Power No More on another kind of blending. Faculty and students from at least four generations each with distinct learning preferences engage with each other in the same online and face-to-face classrooms. Learning among various generations means that the timehonored metaphors we use for education are changing, so that we may learn to think of education as teamwork. In Adding Clicks to Bricks: Increasing Access to Mainstream Higher Education, Raymond E. Schroeder of the University of Illinois Springfield (UIS) and Burks Oakley II of the University of Illinois demonstrate that providing a wide range of quality online degree programs to individuals who otherwise would not be participating in higher education is truly democratizing higher education. C. How can the Two Worlds of Academia and Industry Cooperate to Contribute to a Tenfold Increase in Online Learning in the Next Ten Years? Introducing this challenge to the workshop Frank Mayadas, President of the Sloan Consortium and program officer for the learning anytime anywhere program of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and Robert Ubell of the Stevens Institute of Technology explained that: Both academic online learning and corporate e-learning rely on the internet and web technologies, and their approaches appear similar at a superficial level. In fact however, the academic and corporate implementations for online learning are quite different. This is not surprising given the motivations, resources and history of the two sectors. In other words, each sector appears to have settled on practices that most suit their particular applications. Nevertheless, we think it is desirable that the two worlds be brought closer together, so that each can progress to its goals even more rapidly for the benefit of academe, the corporate community, and society as a whole. Providing an overview of a global company s e-learning structures, Richard Benner reports in Implementing Curricula Using a Variety of Learning Modalities at Liberty Mutual Group that the Sloan-C pillars of quality are effective as metrics for Liberty s learning strategy that emphasizes training that is relevant to employees, helpful to business, and develops employee abilities via emerging instructional technologies. Mutual benefits to corporations and to schools evolve come from their engagement with each other. In Instructional Technology Graduate Programs in Support of Corporate E-learning, Barbara Lockee and Michelle Reece of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University assert that Academia must find ways to weave interactions with business partners into the fabric of their missions and activities, finding that faculty and students appreciate engaging with corporate e-learning to stay current and to apply academic learning to real world opportunities. 9

12 Introduction D. What do We Need to Learn About the Business of Education? Understanding the business of education means engaging constituents within and across institutions, according to Stephen Schiffman of the Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering. In Business Issues in Online Education, Schiffman synthesizes wide-ranging information about business issues in online education drawn from interviews with more than fifty people working in the field of online education at eleven not-for-profit higher education institutions during the winter and spring of He finds that there is a thirst for knowledge about business models and proposes activities that will discover and disseminate effective business strategies. In The Business of Online Education Are We Cost Competitive? Rob Robinson of the University of Texas Telecampus points out that Properly designed and constructed, online courses, when compared to traditional face-to-face courses, can better engage learners, increase retention, improve student outcomes, and greatly increase access to higher education. They can also cost less to develop and to deliver, although consensus about cost effectiveness has not yet emerged. Doug Lynch, formerly of New York University and now of the University of Pennsylvania, affirms in Success Versus Value: What Do We Mean by the Business of Education? that There is a need, a market, and a moral imperative to be entrepreneurial when it comes to developing and delivering online education. Lynch gives entrepreneurial examples from NYU s cooperative engagement with employers in which competitors find makes sense to cooperate. Noting that many in the academy still cling to the notion that a university is not a business, in Reinventing the University: The Business of Online Education, Tana Bishop of the University of Maryland University College, calls for recognition that the 21 st century demands that schools demonstrate quality and efficiency. Bishops says that Colleges and universities have the unique opportunity to reinvent themselves by leveraging technologies to restructure old processes and breathe new life into the academy. Indeed, new life comes from engaging communities in improving education for greater access to learning. You are welcome to use this volume as a catalyst in your own communities. Sloan-C invite you to use Sloan-C special interest groups, listserv, online workshops, conferences, effective practices, the Sloan-C View newsletter and the Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks as channels for expanding the culture of learning. 1. Allen, I. E. and J. Seaman. Entering the Mainstream: The Quality and Extent of Online Education in the United States, 2003 and Needham, MA: Sloan-C, Online: 2. Gomory, R. Sheffield Lecture- Yale University, January 11, 2000, Internet Learning: Is it Real and What Does it Mean for Universities? Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks 5(1): June Online: 3. Miller, Gary. Message to the Sloan-C listserv, August 1,

13 How can Online Pedagogy Improve on Face-to-face Pedagogy?

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15 A Constructivist Model for Thinking About Learning Online A CONSTRUCTIVIST MODEL FOR THINKING ABOUT LEARNING ONLINE Karen Swan Research Center for Educational Technology Kent State University Constructivist learning theory has implications for designing online learning environments that are learner centered, knowledge centered, assessment centered, and community centered. Cognitive constructivism is important because it clearly locates learning in the mind of the individual and because it defines it as an active process of mental construction linked to interactions with the environment. The Research Center for Educational Technology (RCET) model distinguishes three interacting domains of knowledge construction conceptualization, representation, and use. These domains can guide research to inform practice and advance online learning. New and evolving social conventions (of discourse, of interaction, and of netiquette) in online courses in relation to the larger culture of the Internet are an important topic for future research. 13

16 A Constructivist Model for Thinking About Learning Online I. INTRODUCTION This paper explores constructivist theory and how it might inform research and practice in online learning. It begins with an overview of constructivist theory and some of its more important instantiations cognitive constructivism, constructionism, social constructivism, situated learning, and distributed cognition. It then explores some implications constructivism might have for instruction in general and online learning in particular in the development of the four kinds of learning environments advocated by Bransford, Brown, and Cocking in How People Learn [1]. Finally, it presents a constructivist model of the effects that online environments may have on learning in terms of the unique external representations of knowledge they afford, their particular effects on student conceptualizations of knowledge, and the social uses made of knowledge and through which knowledge is constructed online. II. CONSTRUCTIVIST THEORY Constructivist is the name given to theories of learning grounded in an epistemological alternative to objectivist theories of knowledge. Central to constructivism is the notion that meaning is imposed on the world rather than extant in it. Both objectivism and constructivism agree that there is a real world we experience. However, while objectivists believe that meaning exists in that world to be discovered by us, constructivists believe that we impose meaning on it [2]. They hold that meaning is constructed in our minds as we interact with the physical, social, and mental worlds we inhabit, and that we make sense of our experiences by building and adjusting the internal knowledge structures that collect and organize our perceptions of and reflections on reality. Hence constructivism refers to a set of psychological theories that share common assumptions about knowing and learning. Constructivist theories have implications for both pedagogy and instruction, although they are not theories of either. According to constructivists, all learning involves mental construction, no matter how one is taught. All learning, they argue, occurs in our minds as we create and adjust internal mental structures to accommodate our ever-growing and ever-changing stores of knowledge. Thus, according to constructivists, all learning is an active process and all knowledge is unique to the individual, whether acquired from lecture and text or discovered through experience. All learning is intimately tied to experience and the contexts of experience, no matter how or where that learning takes place [1]. While constructivist theories share common assumptions about the nature of learning and the construction of knowledge, they diverge in focus; particular theories and theorists explore and highlight particular aspects of constructivism. The paragraphs that follow briefly describe some of those aspects. I have chosen these for their importance to the field, for their articulation of significant threads in the constructivist fabric, and for their potential relevance to online learning. A. Cognitive Constructivism Jean Piaget, a key figure in educational psychology, originated what is sometimes called cognitive constructivism (although all constructivist theories are essentially cognitive) and what he called genetic epistemology [3,4]. Piaget focused his attention on what happens in our minds in the course of learning in an era dominated by behaviorism, which held that we can know nothing about what happens in our minds. Piaget is called a cognitive constructivist both because his main concern was the internal development of mental structures and because he thus opened the door for the development of cognitive psychology. Indeed, many cognitive psychologists accept a weak form of cognitive constructivism in that they focus on the internal construction of mental structures while nonetheless maintaining a belief in 14

17 A Constructivist Model for Thinking About Learning Online some sort of meaning existing in the world [5]. A biologist by training, Piaget in his early career observed how organisms, specifically mollusks, reacted to their environment. He applied that approach to studying how children learn, and not surprisingly, he believed that children learn by interacting with the environments in which they find themselves. Learning occurs, he maintained, through the cognitive processing of environmental interactions and the corresponding construction of mental structures to make sense of them. He called these mental structures schema and posited two kinds of cognitive processing involved in schema construction. In assimilation, new knowledge is incorporated into existing schemas in much the same way that a new wing is added to a building. In accommodation, new knowledge conflicts with existing schemas that accordingly must be altered to incorporate it. The analogy here might be the remodel of a building. Epistemology is the branch of philosophy concerned with the nature of knowledge and knowing. Piaget called himself a genetic epistemologist because he believed that the ways we structure knowledge internally are determined by our genetic make-up, and that these ways change as we mature. Through his observations of children, Piaget identified four distinct developmental stages, each distinguished by specific kinds of mental processing. The sensorimotor stage, which is prelinguistic, is characterized by kinesthetic understandings and organizations of experience, while the preoperational stage is characterized by egocentrism and the organization of knowledge relative to oneself. In the concrete operational stage, knowledge is organized in logical categories but still linked to concrete experience. It is only in the formal operational stage, according to Piaget, that knowledge is abstracted from experience and formal reasoning can occur. Although Piaget believed that individuals went through these cognitive stages in order as a natural result of maturation, evidence indicates that in his later years he came to believe that some individuals never reached any formal operational levels, and that no individuals thought formally in all domains. Indeed, most modern Piagetians hold this view. Why is cognitive constructivism important to us? It is important because it clearly locates learning in the mind of the individual and because it defines it as an active process of mental construction linked to interactions with the environment. Moreover, stage theory reminds us that people in different stages of development construct knowledge in different ways that, for example, novices in a field construct meaning differently than experts. Cognitive constructivism also posits the interrelated process of assimilation and accommodation (or similar mechanisms; see Rumelhart and Norman [6]) to accomplish mental construction and so links all new learning to learners pre-existing knowledge, bringing the issue of misconceptions and their nature more clearly in focus. Cognitive constructivism gives us the notion of knowledge organized internally as mental schemas that are in some broad sense peculiarly human. Mental schema have been variously characterized and studied, for example, as frames [7] representing particular scenes, scripts [8] representing complex actions, mental models [9] representing causality, and semantic networks [10] representing relationships among ideas. All of these characterizations tell us something about the ways in which learners naturally organize and construct knowledge, hence suggesting methods of instruction that reflect and support learning. B. Constructionism Seymour Papert [11,12] is a mathematician who studied for five years with Piaget before becoming involved with the emerging discipline of computer science at MIT. Papert coined the term constructionism to distinguish his particular constructivist focus [12], which attaches special importance to the role of constructions in the world as a support for those in the head (p. 142), from cognitive constructivism (although the two are, in fact, clearly related). What makes Papert and other constructionists (see, for example, Resnick [13] and disessa [14]) of particular interest to us is that they 15

18 A Constructivist Model for Thinking About Learning Online are specifically concerned with the kinds of constructions that are supported by computing technologies. Andy disessa [14], for example, writes: Computers can be the technical foundation of a new and dramatically enhanced literacy... which will have penetration and depth of influence comparable to what we have already experienced in coming to achieve a mass, text-based literacy. (p. 4) Constructionists maintain that computers have the unique capacity to represent abstract ideas in concrete and malleable forms. Papert and his colleagues developed the Logo programming language and variations on it to study these ideas in practice. Their work has demonstrated ways in which computer-based constructions can indeed make abstract concepts more accessible and more readily internalized as mental schema. Constructionists believe that computer-based constructions are personally created, hence more readily linked to existing knowledge (assimilation). They further maintain that computer-based constructions can be used to interrogate existing schema, as in the case of certain simulations, and so lead to changes in knowledge structures and the remediation of misconceptions (accommodation). Constructionism, in short, is important to us because it suggests ways in which computer-based construction activities can be used to support corresponding mental constructions. C. Social Constructivism Social constructivism, perhaps the most common version of constructivism currently in favor, is the theoretical framework normally evoked by the term constructivism. Learning theories are called social constructivist when their main concern is with knowledge construction through social interactions. Social constructivist theories derive primarily from the work of Lev Vygotsky [15, 16], a Russian contemporary of Piaget whose work was suppressed by the Stalinists and rediscovered in the 1960s. Vygotsky maintained that all learning results from social interaction even when it takes place in individual minds and that meaning is socially constructed through communication and interactions with others. He believed that cognitive skills and patterns of thinking are not primarily determined by innate factors (as in genetic epistemology) but rather are the products of the activities practiced in the social institutions of the culture in which the individual lives. Consequently, the history of the society in which one is reared and one s personal history are crucial determinants of the ways in which one will think. Even the solitary scholar alone in a room engages the artifacts and tools of a particular culture, Vygotsky argued, and through those artifacts, their authors and the larger society. Moreover, a history of social and cultural interactions have shaped the scholar s knowledge, attitudes, skills, and behaviors. Vygotsky viewed the construction of meaning as a two-part, reciprocal process. Meanings are first enacted socially and then internalized individually; internal conceptualizations in turn guide social interactions. Piaget [13] focused on the second part of this process, schema construction, which he viewed, in an important sense, as genetically determined. Vygotsky focused on the first part of the process, the social construction of meaning, which he saw as culturally determined. Interestingly, whereas Piaget viewed the development of cognitive schema as the internalization of environmental interactions, Vygotsky viewed objects in the environment as having a psychological as well as a physical aspect, and so as being in a sense psychologically determined. Objects in the environment, including other people, he maintained, are in important ways what we perceive them to be, and their perceived properties are to a great extent culturally determined. Vygotsky believed that language and thought were intimately related and was particularly concerned with the role of language in thinking and learning. Although at first a child seems to use language only for superficial social interaction, at some point this language is internalized to structure the child s thinking. Language was to Vygotsky not merely a way of expressing the knowledge one has acquired; the 16

19 A Constructivist Model for Thinking About Learning Online fundamental correspondence between thought and speech means that language becomes essential in forming thought. Language is the crucial tool in the cognitive development process in that advanced modes of thought are transmitted by means of words. Another important concept in Vygotsky s learning theory is his notion of the zone of proximal development, the distance between the actual development level as determined by independent problem solving and the level of potential development as determined through problem solving under adult guidance or in collaboration with more capable peers [16]. Vygotsky claimed that all learning occurs in this zone, which bridges the gap between what is known and what can be known, through either adult/instructor guidance or peer collaboration. Two other important learning theorists who are sometimes considered social constructivists are Jerome Bruner and John Dewey. A major theme in the theoretical framework of Bruner [17, 18] is that learning is an active process in which learners construct new ideas or concepts based upon their current knowledge. He believed that the individual s cognitive structures allowed learning by giving meaning and organization to such active experiences. Bruner is deemed a social constructivist because of the central role he attributed to language and other people in this process. Similarly, Dewey [19], although he predates the social constructivist movement, is sometimes considered a social constructivist because he understood thought as the product of interaction with the environment, because of the importance he placed on active learning, and because of the central role language and social interaction plays in his notions of teaching and learning. Why is social constructivism important to us? Social constructivism reminds us that learning is essentially a social activity, that meaning is constructed through communication, collaborative activity, and interactions with others. It highlights the role of social interactions in the making of meaning, especially the support of more knowledgeable others in knowledge construction. Social constructivism encourages us to consider the critical function of language as the vehicle of thought and hence of knowing and learning, and to understand the ways in which knowledge and knowing are culturally and historically determined and realized. D. Situated Learning/Distributed Cognition Vygotsky s disciple Alexei Leont ev [20] took his mentor s ideas one step further. He contended that internal and external constructions of knowledge could not be understood apart from culture and the tools and artifacts that shaped them. He accordingly developed methodologies for examining what he viewed as the seamless and mutually transforming processes of knowledge construction in terms of the activities in which they were embedded. Activities, he maintained, are driven by motives, performed through actions, oriented to goals, and implemented through operations. Learning thus can only be analyzed in terms of the hierarchical activity structures in which it evolves. Many social constructivist theories similarly view thinking and learning as part of and inseparable from whole activity systems composed of culture, community, tools, and symbols. Situated learning, for example, explores learning as situated in communities of practice. Situative theorists argue that learning as it normally occurs is a function of the activity, context, and culture in which it takes place and hence is inseparable from participation in the communities that support it [21, 22, 23]. An important concept in such theories is the notion of legitimate peripheral participation, which argues that mastery of knowledge and skills requires newcomers to gradually move towards full and complex engagement with communities of practice [22, 23]. In school contexts, this occurs as cognitive apprenticeship [21], in which students work on authentic problems with the help of more expert adults 17

20 A Constructivist Model for Thinking About Learning Online and peers, and as knowledge building communities [24], in which students work collaboratively to coconstruct knowledge corpora. The situative perspective encourages us to conceptualize learning as an apprenticeship process in which the individual gradually moves from peripheral to full participation in scholarly activities. A particularly important modern instantiation of Leont ev s work can be found in theories of distributed cognition. Theories of distributed cognition maintain that thinking, and hence learning, does not take place solely inside the mind of individuals but rather that it is socially distributed among individuals and the tools and artifacts of a culture [25, 26, 27]. Radical versions of distributed learning theories maintain that, although individual cognitions cannot be dismissed, thinking and learning in general should in the main be conceived and studied as distributed, with joint, socially mediated learning activities in cultural contexts as the proper units of analysis [25, 26]. Weaker versions of distributed learning distinguish between individual and distributed thinking and learning but view these as linked through interdependent and dynamic interactions [28, 29]. What the concept of distributed cognition, however conceived, provides us is the idea that thinking and learning are supported by, mediated through, and in some sense reside in, artifacts and tools. This is a particularly compelling and useful notion when considering learning online, where all learning is necessarily mediated through virtual artifacts and tools. III. IMPLICATIONS FOR INSTRUCTION As previously noted, constructivism is an epistemological theory and not a theory of instruction. In the field of education, however, our epistemological beliefs dictate, or should at least strongly inform, our pedagogical views. Indeed, the previous section outlined the importance of various versions of constructivism in terms of the ways in which they encourage us to think about learning. Particular conceptualizations of learning in turn suggest corresponding approaches to teaching. Perhaps the most important implication constructivism holds for instruction is somewhat paradoxical. Constructivism locates meaning and meaning making squarely in the mind of individuals, not in instruction. This distinction is an important one. It suggests, for example, that although it may be possible to standardize instruction, it is not possible to standardize learning, a goal to which some online programs aspire. It also suggests that our concern should be focused more on the design of learning environments and less on instructional design per se [1]. Although such a contrast appears merely semantic, it may be especially important in online learning because it urges us to forgo our traditional focus on the delivery of instruction and the design of instructional materials and instead to approach course development in terms of creating virtual spaces that foster and support active learning, Indeed, the authors of How People Learn contend that constructivism suggests we should be concerned with the design of particular kinds of learning environments, namely, learning environments that are learner centered, knowledge centered, assessment centered, and community centered. Each of these characteristics and their application to online learning will be explored in the following paragraphs. A. Learner-Centered Learning Environments Environments that are learner-centered acknowledge the constructivist notions that individuals bring unique knowledge, skills, attitudes, and beliefs to the learning experience and that there are many ways to structure experience and many different perspectives or meanings that can be gleaned from any event or concept [1]. Learner-centered teaching thus recognizes the importance of building on the conceptual and cultural knowledge that students bring with them to the learning experience, of linking learning to students experiences, and of accepting and exploring multiple perspectives and divergent understandings. At the same time, learner-centered teaching must be concerned with diagnosing and remediating students 18

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